Why wait?

Frank Enderle
Baptism of the Lord (B)
Reproduced with Permission

The Gospel Reading today tells us that John the Baptist announced, "after me comes one who is mightier than me." That someone was Jesus. Christ came to Nazareth from Galilee precisely to be baptized by John. Immediately after being baptized, and after coming out of the water, the sky was torn open and the Spirit of God, in the form of a dove, descended on the Lord. That was when John recognized that Jesus was the promised Messiah. From that moment on the Jesus' life takes on a prophetic quality. He will not be a prophet in the sense of being someone who purports to foretell the future. He will be a prophet in the biblical sense - a person who proclaims the justice and pardon of God.

That prophetic mission that was Christ's did not end with His death on the Cross nor was it meant to be carried out just by Him. Whenever a Christian is baptized, he or she begins to share in that mission to be a prophet, to evangelize, to proclaim the Good News that Our Lord came to bring us. It is the Good News, the Gospel, of salvation and light. But preaching the Gospel is not enough. It must be proclaimed through example and good works.

We all know that even though the Lord voluntarily submitted to being ritually purified by John, He did not have to do so. Through His baptism Jesus wanted to show His humility. For us baptism is, more than a necessity, it is an obligation. Just before He ascended into heaven, Jesus entrusted to His Church the obligation to baptize all those who want to become Christians (Matthew 28:19). So, from the very day of Pentecost the Church has celebrated and administered holy Baptism. Indeed St. Peter declares to the crowd astounded by his preaching: "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." (Acts 2:38) The Apostles baptized entire households: women, men and children; old and young; free ans slave.

We Christians know that when we are baptized we receive the sacramental grace of this sacrament. In other words, we receive the Holy Spirit. Moreover, we receive the same mandate that the apostles received: to go forth and evangelize the world. That is why it is so frustrating for me to see Catholic families who do not recognize the need to baptize their children. This must be the reason that they wait so long to baptize their children and that some of them do not baptize them at all. For others it seems that Baptism is a social event. They worry more about the timing of the Baptism, who will be invited and how the party afterwards will be celebrated than about the need to Baptize as soon as possible. The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that Baptims is "the most beautiful and magnificent of the gifts of God" (CCC 1276). It is the foundation of all Christian life; This sacrament is essential for all Christians because it is the gateway through which the newly baptized person enters into the life of the Holy Spirit, into the life of the Church. Without it, none of the other sacraments can be received.

Because of our Baptism we can call ourselves Christians, daughters and sons of God. Through it our sins are forgiven and we receive the Holy Spirit, who helps us to initiate a new life of grace. Through Baptism we are introduced into the life of the Church, in which we will continue to receive, through the other sacraments, the grace that we need not only to live a holy life but also to take the message of salvation to the entire world.